Climate change a threat to two-thirds of North American bird species

The sights and sounds of the common loon could disappear from the US scientists warn

A new report from the National Audubon Society finds that almost two-thirds of North American bird species could face extinction if actions are not taken to prevent the earth's temperature from rising 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In the report's best-case scenario, which relies on efforts to mitigate climate change, just over a third of 187 bird species in ME would become threatened. In fact, birds are already suffering at the hands of climate change and other human-caused environmental threats, according to scientists. For South Carolina, the breeding (summer) birds will be disproportionately affected - almost a quarter (35 out of 146) of the species that nest in South Carolina are climate vulnerable. "Audubon is engaging elected officials at every level of government, farmers, ranchers and bird lovers across California to help save the birds and landscapes we love".

"Anything that happens to birds, they're an early harbinger", said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. Two recent studies have found numbers for most bird species are dramatically dropping.

But if the expected rise in temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 F) by 2080 is slowed to 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 F), almost 40 per cent of those species would no longer be considered vulnerable, researchers said.

As the climate warms, birds would be forced to relocate to find a more favourable habitat, and they may not survive this journey, the report said.

Last month, the journal Science published a study by a joint team of conservation biologists describing a grim picture: a steady decline of almost three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities.

In addition to protecting habitats, the Audubon Society is working toward new policies to prevent further effects of climate change.

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The models that were used, which are reportedly the culmination of five years of research, are "cutting-edge", according to Josh Lawler, an ecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle who uses similar models to predict how wildlife might respond to climate change; he was not involved in the Audobon study. "When I was a child, my grandmother introduced me to the common loons that lived on the lake at my grandparent's home in northern Wisconsin".

But most birds won't thrive. "Those loons are what drive my work today and I can't imagine them leaving the USA entirely in summer but that's what we're facing if trends continue".

"What this means for birds is that plants and the insects that live on them that they're expecting to find when they migrate, aren't there", Bonner said.

Climate change is threatening birds. "And then on top of the range shifts, we also have the pressure of changes in sea level rise, urbanization, extreme weather events that are going to affect these species no matter where they go".

"We already know what we need to do to reduce global warming, and we already have a lot of the tools we need to take those steps", Stone said in a statement.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.

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